Fuel Sale in Nome Targets Spring Subsistence Hunters

Gas prices in downtown Nome. April 13, 2015.
Gas prices in downtown Nome. April 13, 2015.

Anywhere else in the United States, $5.47 per gallon for gasoline might be pretty frightening—but in Nome, it’s a sale for spring subsistence.

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Earlier this week, Bonanza Fuel dropped their gas prices by $0.25 per gallon. CEO Scot Henderson says that while they’ve been locked in to the higher cost of fuel purchased last fall, they wanted to make it easier for Nome residents to get out in the country for subsistence. Bonanza is owned by Sitnasuak Native Corporation, and Henderson says hunting and fishing are important to shareholders and their customers.

“We wanted to do everything we can to make fuel more affordable during this important time,” said Henderson. “So, instead of waiting another two or three months when the spring barge arrives to lower gas prices, we’ve decided to start lowering prices now when local residents are needing to buy more gas.”

Henderson says this is the first time he can recall that Bonanza has specifically offered a spring subsistence sale.

Like most Western Alaska communities, Nome only has three or four months in the summer when the port is open and fuel can be delivered. Distributors like Bonanza order about a year’s worth of fuel at a time, and the summer cost of gasoline typically remains the stable price through winter.

Henderson says this has been beneficial in past winters when gas prices have spiked, but this year’s immense drop hasn’t transferred to Nome.

The first summer barge delivery to Nome is two or three months out, but Henderson says things should be looking up—or, more literally, down.

“It is a bit early for me to speculate on how much of a decrease we will be seeing, but we do expect that there will be a relatively significant decrease in price from when they were set last fall,” said Henderson. Gas was $6.10 per gallon after the bulk purchases, with retail prices fluctuating throughout the year to remain competitive.

Over the last several years, Bonanza has purchased fuel primarily from Asia or refineries in the Pacific Northwest. Sitnasuak has not yet set a date for when the sale will end, but Henderson says it will be communicated well in advance.